Galatians 5 - Boundaries and Freedom

Galatians 5:1-6 - How should we look at this passage? Paul argues that Christ came to free us, and if we attempt to find our justification on the law then Jesus is of no value to us. So, what then of things like expectations of members (we were just talking about this at Pinikidion's place)? Would Paul rail against them?

Well, if it was an attempt to define what a Christian is and force others into their mold, then I believe yes. If it's simply a matter of proclaiming who they are, then perhaps no.

A Christian is justified through Christ alone, no careful following of any rules - and Paul was talking here about God's rules, not man made Church rules - can make us right with God. A church that proclaims that unless people act as they believe, they are not Christians (as we most certainly used to do) would earn the rebuke of Paul, based on what I see here. But, the church that simply says that this is the kind of Christians we are, we stand for these practices and believe in them, teach them and follow them would not necessarily. If they can do so without passing judgment on the rest of believers, then good.

An argument can be made, convincingly I believe, that such statements serve more to exclude and to comfort those inside and that perhaps whatever is gained in defining themselves and knowing who they are, is lost in shutting out those who might come into fellowship and bring new understandings and wisdom.

It's always good to ask why? Why do you want this rule or that? Paul claims here in Galatians that following the rules is of no value for those who follow Jesus. In fact, Jesus' coming signaled the end of the era of rules. Having a set of rules makes us feel good about who we are as a group and help us draw a line of distinction between us and others. A boundary can protect us, but can also keep us from maturing to where we can find our own way. The Christian raised within the safety of a boundary, flounders and wanders when those boundaries are removed and is danger because they have no means of determining what is safe and what is not. Inside the boundary, everything was safe.

Certainly, God has things He approves of and doesn't and a church should stand up for and against what God does. But we must be careful and not mistake the standing for principals for the work of Jesus. No amount of vehemently proclaiming what God hates or loves will ever save anyone, only Jesus can do that. And rest assured, there are some who don't follow your or my rules that He will save as well.

Galatians 5:11 - Paul refers here to "the offense of the cross", what does that mean? I think I've always just skipped over that, but what is it? Paul's talking about salvation by grace here, calling the law useless here. He's quite adamant about it. What's the implication? That we are powerless, that none of the good we can claim, no deed we have done is of any value. The cross strips us of our pride, shows us for the failures that we are in following God. Jesus on the says that we are not good enough, in fact so far away that a man had to die to bring us back. To those who think they are something, what an offense indeed!

Galatians 5:16-24 - This is a passage I'm well familiar with, we went to it frequently to teach about what Christians should and shouldn't do. But this is written in the context of freedom, not as rules to be followed as it is frequently taught and we never visited the first part of the chapter with the last. In urging them to not allow themselves to be fenced in, Paul also warned them of the dangers of unregulated freedom. Paul challenged them to regulate themselves rather than to let others do it for them. And he says that the works of the flesh and the fruits are the spirit are clear, seek the one and flee the other.

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